Thursday, September 28, 2023

What Is The Problem With Grain Free Dog Food

Alternative Diets Have Long Been A Suspected Cause Of Dcm This Study Looks At Other Potential Causes And How To Communicate This Information To Clients

Dog Food Dangers: Is Grain-Free Food the Problem?
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University of California, Davis, veterinarians led a team that has found a link between some popular grain-free, legume-rich dog diets and a type of nutritional deficiency and canine heart disease known as taurine-deficient dilated cardiomyopathy. The study was recently published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Researchers found dogs eating some of these boutique diets are not making or maintaining enough taurine, an amino acid important for heart health. Taurine deficiency has been known for many years to lead to dilated cardiomyopathy, or DCM, a heart muscle disorder that can lead to congestive heart failure and death.

I was surprised by how similar the diets being fed to the affected dogs were, says lead author Joshua Stern, a veterinary cardiologist and geneticist at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. I was shocked to see so many cases with this condition in such a short period of time.

Stern says the research was prompted by the surge in cases at UC Davis. This is a condition that was previously rarely seen in our busy clinic, he says. What we would really like to do is spread awareness of this issue. We have seen a great number of affected animals. Given that this is a reversible form of this devastating disease, we really want to ensure that veterinarians can recognize the risk and treat it expediently when needed.

What Stacy Feeds Penny

Like Stacy mentioned, they really struggled for almost a year in figuring out what to feed Penny.

They started off transitioning her to a higher quality kibble because she came to them on the fast food of dog food kibble.

The easiest thing was kibble since that is what she was used to.

They found Stella & Chewys and they put her on a puppy kibble to start.

Stacy didnt want her to be on kibble longterm.

However, to get her to like it they would mix in ghee or very gelatinous broth or homemade gravy.

They were trying to also help her be less underweight.

The problem though was that Penny grew accustomed to things tasting delicious and when they tried to feed her dry kibble alone she wouldnt eat it.

While Penny is extremely motivated for treats, her food is an entirely different thing.

One time she went for almost four days without eating.

The process of trying to modify Pennys diet felt a lot like sleep training.

Sarah pointed out that it is very important to recognize that there is no one way.

There are always going to be exceptions, and you need to do what feels best for you and your pet.

They eventually started adding a stew from Stella & Chewys on top of the kibble and then mixed it up.

However, this was an expensive route.

Stacys dog is very high maintenance with food.

Penny was underweight, and it was very important for them to figure out how to get her to eat something that was both healthful, as well as nutrient-dense for weight-gain promoting purposes.

What Is Dilated Cardiomyopathy

DCM is a heart condition that is characterized by an enlarged heart size and thinning of the heart muscle. These changes weaken the hearts ability to pump blood, so the disease tends to be progressive and eventually leads to heart failure.

Dilated cardiomyopathy can affect both cats and dogs. Canine DCM has traditionally occurred in middle-aged and older dogs, especially large and giant-breed dogs, such as the Doberman, Great Dane and Irish Wolfhound. Because specific breeds are susceptible, this had suggested that the disease has a genetic cause.

But in cats, DCM is caused by a deficiency in taurine, an amino acid that cant be synthesized by the body and must be obtained in the diet. Once researchers found that low taurine was the cause of feline DCM, manufacturers began adding taurine to commercial cat foods to ensure that cats received adequate amounts. As a result, feline DCM is now very rare. That raises the question of whether diet plays into a dogs chance of developing DCM.

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Does This Mean You Should Not Feed Grain

There are lots of excellent grain-free dog foods. If you dont want to feed your dog a food with corn or wheat, or you have another reason for avoiding grains, you can find some great grain-free dog foods. But you should know what grain-free dog foods are and what they arent. Some people have the wrong idea about them or think that foods that contain some grains are bad foods. Thats not the case.

The most important thing is to feed your dog a nutritious diet that will provide him with a long, healthy life. The other things advertising, gimmicks about diets, food controversies dont really matter. Keeping your dog happy and healthy is what its all about.

*Im intentionally leaving soy, soybeans, and the like out of this article because soy is not a grain. Its a legume. However, many people will consider soy to be in the same category as corn and wheat. They do not want to find it in grain-free dog foods and they consider it a likely cause of dog allergies. Soy would need to be discussed separately in another article. It has its own issues since, unlike corn and wheat, it can interfere with hormonal activity in dogs. While I think you can find good dog foods that contain some grains, I would avoid dog foods that contain soy products, in general, especially if you breed dogs.

Grain Free Feeding Has Been Linked To Heart Disease In Dogs


When grain-free first became fashionable, I hesitated because of my concerns about the nutritional and health consequences of alternative ingredients. This caution has been justified. There is growing evidence from the USA that grain-free diets are linked to canine dilated cardiomyopathy , a type of heart disease. Analysis of data by the US Food and Drug Administration into hundreds of cases including deaths caused by DCM has found a potential link with grain free food, although, so far, no definite cause has yet been established. A particular concern is that DCM is being seen in breeds not associated with the disease. Some of the US pet food brands linked to the condition are being sold in the UK.

As a result, both American and British vets are encouraging pet owners to think carefully before choosing a grain free diet. Even if you put aside the potential risks associated with this diet, there is no evidence to support any claim for health benefits that can be gained from feeding a grain free diet.

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What Pet Food Do The Veterinarians At Jacksonville Community Pet Clinics Recommend

At Jacksonville Community Pet Clinics, their vets recommend Purina, Hills Science Diet, or Royal Canin pet foods. They believe it is safest for pet owners to avoid feeding grain-free diets until they know the specifics about whats causing heart disease in pets. Ask for their pet food recommendation for your individual pet.

Twv Podcast Episode : Is Grain

May 18, 2020

About The Whole View Podcast Production Team

The Whole View Podcast is co-hosted by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, PhD of and Stacy Toth of Matthew McCarry produces the podcast. Our team members also help with various aspects of production, like the creation of these Show Notes and shareable graphics.

Welcome to episode 404 of The Whole View! This week Stacy and Sarah are sharing all about how they are feeding their beloved pups. What brands do they love, how do they prep and serve their food, do they supplement, and why do they make the dietary choices they do? All of this and more in episode 404!

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Grain Free With Lily’s Kitchen

We have a delicious menu of nutritionally complete, grain free recipes for dogs at Lilys Kitchen, which are also free of common dietary allergens. Bursting with goodness, these delicious dishes and treats are ideal for dogs with sensitive tums or who are on a grain free diet.The proper meat in our food is either fresh or freshly prepared. No meat meal and no nasties in sight – just the very best natural ingredients, all chosen for their high nutritional content to help keep your dog in tip top condition.

A Look At The Numbers

Ask the Vet: The Issues of Grain-Free Dog Food

The FDA investigated 515 reports of DCM in dogs received between January 1, 2014 and April 30, 2019, finding 560 dogs were affected. Out of the 560 dogs diagnosed with DCM, 119 of them died as a result of DCM .

An enlarged heart is very common in humans, says Dr. Patton, but its relatively uncommon in dogs, so these numbers do seem concerning. Its absolutely something we should keep an open mind about and keep investigating.

Why would a grain-free diet contribute to DCM?

It might not be as simple as grain-free or not grain-free, according to Dr. Patton. The amount of other ingredients of concern complicate the issue.

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Wait Now Whats Taurine

Taurine is an essential amino acid. Cats do not produce taurine themselves. Once upon a time DCM was a much larger health problem for cats, but once taurine deficiency was discovered to be the problem, pet food manufacturers supplemented cat food with taurine, and now the condition is rare to nonexistent in cats.

Dogs do produce taurine. However, one theory is that a pet diet free from grainincluding wheat, corn, and ancient grains such as quinoamay include legumes such as lentils and peas. It may be that these legumes introduce enzymes that interact with other ingredients and possibly interfere with how dogs make and metabolize taurine.

DCM can be caused by a number of conditions. Genetics play a role, as well as diseases such as hypothyroidism.

Is Grain Bad For Dogs

Filled bones can help dogs pass the time safely.

Over centuries of domestication, dogs have adapted to accommodate grain in their diets, so the corn and wheat in ordinary dog food isnt destroying your dogs digestive system. Lower-quality brands may rely too much on those starches as fillers, and thats not ideal. They may also use genetically-modified corn or wheatand we dont fully understand the effects of GMO ingredients on dogs. If that is a concern, however, you can find GMO-free dog food that uses grains.

There is some controversy about whether dogs are omnivores or carnivores. Their guts have certainly adapted to some grains, however, so its not necessarily grains themselves that are the enemy. Instead, consider the proportions. Good-quality foods for dogs should have protein as the first ingredient, and shouldnt be packed with additives and unnecessary fillersincluding low-quality meat byproducts or too much potato, both of which can show up in otherwise grain-free foods. In other words, just because its grain-free doesnt mean a food is healthy or will help your dog maintain a healthy weight to avoid obesity-related health issues.

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Does Grain Free Dog Food Cause Heart Disease

Recent news stories report a link between legume and potato levels in dog food and heart disease. As a result, some pet parents are choosing to avoid grain-free recipes. Once again, grain-free doesnt mean a food necessarily has legume or potato levels look at the ingredient make up to determine if its a food youre comfortable feeding.

Is It Safe To Feed A Grain

A La Carte Grain

The FDAs study of DCM in dogs is still underway, and on their Q& A page, they state:

At this time, we are not advising dietary changes based solely on the information we have gathered so far.

But if you have concerns about feeding diets with certain ingredients, your veterinarian can help determine the most appropriate foods for your pets individual needs.

Although grain-free pet diets have become popular in recent years, its important to keep in mind that grain sensitivities and allergies are actually very rare in pets, compared to humans. So most pets dont require a grain-free diet.

Regardless of which diet youre feeding, if your pet shows any signs of heart problems, such as a cough, breathing difficulties, weakness or collapse, you should contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.

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The Fdas Investigation Of Grain

Many of the cases of DCM have involved dogs that were fed grain-free diets, suggesting that diet may play a role in this disease. This alarming trend led the US Food and Drug Administration to launch an investigation into whether diet and other factors are putting pets at risk of developing DCM.

The FDA has since released a series of reports summarizing the investigations findings. You may be wondering what these findings mean for your pets, and which foods are safe to feed them.

Are grain-free diets bad for dogs? What is causing the recent outbreak of DCM cases? Although the FDAs investigation is still ongoing, heres what you need to know and what you can take away from the latest news on this serious disease.

Natures Logic Pork Meal Feast

This is a sponsored placement, in which an advertiser pays a fee to be featured in this article. Learn more

About:Natures Logic Pork Meal Feast is a very high-quality, high-protein, grain-inclusive recipe. Its a pork-based dog food recipe with the highest protein composition on this list!

If youre looking for one of the highest-quality, highest-protein dog foods on the market, look no further!


  • 100% natural formula free of MSG, gluten, synthetic ingredients, and hydrolyzed proteins.
  • Pork meal is the #1 ingredient
  • Millet is the #2 ingredient considered a high-quality grain source
  • Made in the USA with minimal processing
  • Includes no potatoes, peas, lentils, wheat, corn, rice, soy, potato or chemically synthesized vitamins, minerals, trace nutrients, carrageenan, guar gum or xanthan gum.
  • Includes other beneficial ingredients like pumpkin seeds, dried kelp, blueberries, spinach, carrot, broccoli, and cranberries.
  • Kibble is coated with digestive enzymes and plasma protein containing high levels of natural vitamins, minerals, and albumin and globulin proteins.
  • 38% Protein / 15% Fat / 30% Carbohydrates

While were featuring Natures Logic Pork feast here, there are other Natures Logic recipes worth considering, including:

  • Beef Meal Feast

Pork Meal, Millet, Pork Fat , Pumpkin Seed, Yeast Culture…,



Due to the very high quality, this food is also quite expensive and may not be affordable for all owners.

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Does Grain Free Dog Food Help With Allergies

If your dog is suffering from allergy symptoms, it might be tempting to immediately rush out to buy a variety of new dog foods including grain-free options. Before you rush off to the nearest shop its worth first assessing whether food is the culprit.

First things first, its important to consult with your vet before making any changes at home. Environmental triggers are far more common than food intolerances. Shampoos, washing powders, dust and cleaning products are all common dog allergies that will display similar symptoms to food allergies. Consult with your vet to make sure your dogs symptoms arent due to environmental causes before you make any unnecessary changes to your dogs diet.

If you do find that your dogs allergies are food related, its a process of elimination to discover the true culprit. Weve already discussed that its much more likely that your pooch will have an allergy to beef, eggs, chicken, dairy or wheat rather than grains so opting for a grain-free food which contains the ingredient your dog is sensitive to isnt going to help. Whilst it can be tempting to opt for a fast saliva or blood test, rather than going down the lengthy elimination diet process, wed recommend avoiding these tests. They not only put your dog under stress but also yield inaccurate results as high as 50-60% false positives.

The Fdas Investigation Into Dcm In Dogs: Myths And Facts

FDA issues warning on grain-free dog food

If you scrolled down here first, Im not surprised. The FDAs study of grain-free pet food as it relates to DCM in dogs has been a hot topic for the last several years. First: dont panic. Heres everything you need to know about their research and findings.

What is DCM?

Dilated cardiomyopathy is an abnormal heart muscle disease. When the hearts left ventricle dilates, it cant pump blood as well. The development of DCM can contribute to blood clots, irregular heartbeats, and even sudden death.

Part of the danger with DCM is that its hard to diagnose until it gets really bad. Symptoms of DCM include:

  • Rapid breathing when resting
  • Distended belly
  • Collapsing or fainting

If caught early, your dogs heart function may improve in some cases with appropriate veterinary treatment and dietary modification.

Why Did The FDA Investigate Grain-Free Dog Foods?

Between January 1, 2014 and April 30, 2019, the FDA received 524 reports of DCM in dogs and cats. In many breeds, including the Doberman Pinscher, the Great Dane, the Boxer, and the Cocker Spaniel, this condition is a genetic inheritance. However, atypical information from the FDAs reports led them to investigate the link between a grain-free diet and DCM in dogs.

For more context, Dr. Jerry Klein, the Chief Veterinary Officer of the AKC, explained:

  • Acana
  • Nutro
  • Rachael Ray Nutrish

Still, the FDA stopped short of advising against purchasing these brands. Their research left too much unanswered.

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Best Organic Dry Natural Dog Foods

Dry dog food is, without a question, the most popular option among dog owners who wish to provide the greatest nutrition possible for their pets. It is simple to measure & feed, it keeps conveniently and has a long life span that does not require refrigeration, and it contains high-quality proteins & nutrients that help keep your dog happy and healthy throughout the year.

The problem of dry dog food’s widespread popularity is that there is an overwhelming amount of options available on the market. We believe that either of these high-quality pet food will be a great choice for your pup’s nutritional needs.

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